German artist Hendrik ‘ECB’ Beikirch has painted in Bushwick with and as part of Robots Will Kill for many years. A recent return visit was inspiration to look back in my archive for photos of past work painted – these images stretch back to 2008.
Read Becki’s excellent interview with ECB from 2010 here.
This weekend Robots Will Kill celebrated their 10th anniversary with a show, featuring new works from every crew member, at the Vincent Michael Gallery in Philadelphia. It was a full house from start to finish and many dedicated friends, fans and family members made the traffic heavy trip down to support the guys. It was extra special to have both ECB and Peeta make the trip over from Europe in order to attend the opening as well as paint some walls in Brooklyn.
Not ones to rest on their laurels, Chris, Veng, ECB and Peeta woke up the day after the opening and got right to painting at their spot in Bushwick. Never and Over Under joined in for what is shaping up to be one of the best collaborative walls RWK has painted in some time. ECB even found some time to put up a rare wheatpaste. Congratulations RWK!
This Friday is a very important day for our friends and partners over at Robots Will Kill, with the opening of their show Never Say Die at the Vincent Michael Gallery in Philadelphia. Not only with this be the first time that every member has shown their work together, but it is also celebrating the 10th anniversary of Robots Will Kill. Over the weekend I took the ferry out to their hometown of Staten Island to get a preview of the work for the show and to ask Chris & Veng a few questions.
On Friday, April 1st, you will be having a show at the Vincent Michael Gallery celebrating the 10th anniversary of Robots Will Kill. Can you tell us about how RWK got started and it has changed over the years?
Chris: In 2000 I had become friends with Kevin and we would speak about graffiti, art and other common interests. I had told him that I was tired of galleries not taking things like graffiti and street art serious. I also at the time wanted to launch a website showcasing my artwork. One night while we were talking we agreed that it would be great to give others the opportunity to show their work also. So we started to lay out the site. We had the graffiti/street art section the mini gallery section, merch section and some others. I always thought it was great that some kid in Australia could see someones work from New York and vice versa. So in March of 2001 we launched the site. It was slow in the beginning but def started to pick up speed quick. The images started to really pour in. We couldn’t keep up with doing the uploading ourselves so Kevin developed a great anonymous self upload feature. So over the years there’s def been improvements but the main ideal is still there.
We always looked towards different outlets for exposure. One being stickers. I’m a huge fan of stickers. So it kind of went hand in hand. Another was the murals. Murals always grab peoples attention. It was a great way to mix the two things, doing artwork and helping get the name out there. I didn’t want anyone just hooking it up on walls. I wanted it to be kept to a core group of artists.
Chris, as a founding member of RWK, what does making it to the ten year mark and having this show mean to you?
Chris: The ten year mark was a dream when we first started. I remember when me and Kevin launched we were so excited to see 13 visitors to the site. Before we knew it the visitor numbers kept rising and more and more graff images came in and more artists wanted to have mini galleries on the site. We were so excited when we hit the 5 year mark but didn’t really plan anything for it. With the 10 year mark we had to do some special plans. The Vincent Michael show is the start. Its definitely a great one too. Its the first time all 7 of us will be showing together. In July we will all be showing again but this time in the Ayden Gallery in Vancouver, Canada. There will also be some limited edition shirts, stickers and other goodies.
One of the best things about doing a show to celebrate the anniversary is when the site started it was about giving artists a place to show their work. Especially artists that were overlooked by the mainstream world.
Veng, how did you become involved with RWK and how long have you been a member?
Veng: Since we all started on Staten Island, we ended up knowing and painting with the same people. After painting with other RWK members and already knowing them as friends it was around 2004 I was asked to write RWK.
Most people who are familiar with RWK probably know the two of you, but may be surprised to learn that there are several other members: Kevin, ECB, Peeta, Flying Fortress, and JesseRobot. Can you share a little information about the rest of the crew?
Veng: I had known of both ECB and Peeta’s work for some time, but we didn’t meet until 2006 at a graffiti event I helped organize called Meeting Of Styles. We all painted a wall together and found that our styles, methods, and personalities really meshed well together. It felt like we had already painted thousands of walls, even though this was our first. It was then that I thought it would be great to have them join RWK. Both ECB and Peeta are very proficient in what they paint, ECB with strong character paintings and also extreme talent with type (a squared font he uses to sign walls) which he paints freehand and I still love to watch after all these years. Peetas talent with seamless blending of light and shadow to make you feel as if his letters are jumping off the wall, leaving me amazed still. Both guys have become great friends and people in my life who I feel very fortunate to know.
Chris: Kevin was there from the start. He helped me get everything together and moving. He came from a graffiti background and we had so many things in common. When we spoke about the idea of the site he sounded just as excited as I was so I knew it would work. In the past few years he broke out his paint brushes and cans. He does primarily stencil work with free painting mixed in.
JesseRobot reached out to me around 2002 saying how much he loved the site and would love to have a mini gallery and do a link exchange. I loved his robots and his style so I asked him if he would wanna trade some artwork and do some collab pieces. We would mail each other cardboard since it was cheap and held up better then paper. We also traded and collabed on a ton of stickers. He would put them up all over Belgium. He really helped get them name out to an area of the world that I would never go to. A few years later when RWK took on more of an art collective identity I asked JesseRobot if he would be intrested in pushing RWK.
Around 2003 I had traded some stickers with Flying Fortress and that started a steady relationship with him. We swaped tshirts and some small collab cardboard pieces. I loved his work from the first time I saw it. The teddy troops are such a great iconographic image. His name also created a great visual in your head. A few years later I received an email from him saying he was coming to New York and asked if I had a spot for him to paint. After that every time he came to NY we made sure he had a spot to paint. During a visit in 2009 I asked Fortress if he would like to push RWK.
Do you have any final words that you would like to share with the fans and patrons that have supported you over the years?
Veng: I am very happy this has become what it is, a vehicle for me to promote art and create art with my best friends. Most importantly my deepest thanks to all who have supported RWK over the years.
Chris: I still believe in what I said when we started this 10 years ago, “you wouldn’t give us a space… so we built one”. Sure there’s other sites and galleries out there, but you’ve stuck by us and for that I say thank you.
Last weekend while I was enjoying the music and warm weather at SXSW, Over Under busy collaborating with his friend No Touching Ground on one of the most mind blowing pieces that I’ve laid eyes on in years. We all know about the ephemeral nature of wheatpaste, though this has typically been considered a shortcoming rather than an asset of the medium. The genius about this piece, aside from the fact that it is big, beautiful and well executed, is that its disintegration is expected and has been prepared for. Underneath the paper arm is a skeletal mural painted onto the wall, inspired by, well, inspiring people such as buZ blurr, his brother, Sunset Justice, and Reader. Check out Over Under’s blog to see some amazing process shots & for a peak at what lies underneath.
And because Over Under is not just a talented artist, but a upstanding human being, he has used this opportunity to bring a message of giving, hope, and optomism in the face of the recent tragedy in Japan. If you have been at all inspired by his work, or just feel the need to do a good deed, consider making a donation to the Red Cross today.
2010 has been yet another crazy year, filled with lots of change, adventure, and as always, fun. The highlight for me was the adoption of my dog Ava, who I consider to be New York’s #1 pit bull street art model. I was also very fortunate in getting to meet and spend time with some really fantastic people, such as ECB, Jef Aerosol, Sweet Toof, Ludo, and Roa, during their stays in the city. My trips to Oaxaca, Art Basel Miami, and getting to see Steve Powers bring his Love Letter project to my hometown of Syracuse were a great way to rounded out the year. After taking a look back on this year, I would like to share some of my favorite photos, people, art & events from 2010 (see Luna Park’s list here).
Have a Happy and Healthy New Year!
Photos include work of: El Mac, Retna, How, Nosm, Aryz, Veng, Themo, Deem, ECB, “Sugar Junkie”, Specter, Sweet Toof, The Dude Company, Ludo, Skewville, C215, Dolk, MOMO, Faile, Swoon, Chris Stain, Joe Iurato, Lapiztola, Dan Witz, Gaia, Elbow Toe, Sofia Maldonado, Shepard Fairey, Steve Powers, Over Under, N D’A, Broken Crow, Cern, Cekis, Jef Aerosol, Cash4, Smells, Rambo, Trusto Corp, White Cocoa, Rime, Swampy, Celso, Nekst, Paul Richard, Goya, Faro, Darkcloud, Sadue, Gen2, UFO, Roa, Cahil Muraghu, Tati, and Kid Acne
This coming up Friday night, September 10th from 6-9, the Mighty Tanaka gallery in DUMBO will be taken over by a slew of native New Yorkers for the exhibition Iconography: A Reflection of Anonymity. Matt Siren, Royce Bannon, Chris & Veng of Robots Will Kill, 2Esae & SKI of URnewyork, and Peat Wollaeger (stenSOUL) will explore the iconic images they have come to be known for from their work on the streets and beyond.
68 Jay St, Suite 416 (F Train to York St)
Brooklyn, NY 11021
Over his 20+ years as a graffiti artist, Germany’s ECB has done it all: traveled the world, painted with some of the today’s best living artists, published the book Straight Lines (Gingko Press, June of 2004), and has established a strong international career in the gallery world. Yet when you meet him there is none of the bravado often seen in artists with only a modicum of his success – just a very humble guy with a love for painting…and New York pizza. Yesterday, after a long day of painting in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, he was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions for The Street Spot.
Can you share a little about your background: where you’re from, how long you’ve been painting, and what kind of formal training (if any) you have had.
Hendrik “ecb” Beikirch from Koblenz, Germany. Started spray painting back in 1989, went to University for Art but left before I finished. Anyhow, I would say my background is classical graffiti writing, even though it might not be really visible in my work today. Art wise graffiti taught me the most, far more than any school or University could ever do.
Do you feel that there is much of a difference between painting in Europe vs here in the States? How have your experiences differed?
In terms of the tools there is hardly any difference nowadays as you can get all the supplies we got back home over here as well. Over here people would show their emotions more than they would do back home. So if someone likes what you are doing he will let you know. This direct feedback is what makes working in public space interesting to me.
I know that you keep a busy travel schedule – where have you gone and what have you been up to recently? Any plans for the future that you would like to share?
I have been to Siberia a few weeks ago, then Belgrade/Serbia before I came to New York. I will go up to Canada from over here. Then it is a few days back home before I am off to China for another two weeks to work on a mural for a museum in Shenzhen close to Hong Kong.
NYC seems to be a yearly stop for you – what is it that keeps bringing you back?
To me, the perfect day ends after all day painting with a slice of New York pizza and some milkshake from a Mister Softee ice cream truck:) Besides that I have some great friends over here, too.
Who are some of your favorite artists, both past & present? Do you feel that they have in any way influenced your art?
This is a tough one. I really like a lot of stuff. As far as influences for graffiti go it was what I saw in the Subway Art book way back in the days. But pretty quickly I went into another direction because I was experimenting a lot with different styles and techniques back then. The history might be another reason why NYC is special to me. I think you can still feel it somehow.
With the mainstream popularity of artists such as Swoon, Shepard Fairey, KAWS, Steve Powers & Banksy, street art & graffiti appears to be experiencing a resurgence in popularity & acceptance that hasn’t been seen since the 80s. What are your feelings on this & do you think that it has had an effect on your career?
Graffiti or urban art definitely deserves even more recognition and acceptance within the art world. It is still a long way to go especially in the art market, but I feel it is taking the right direction. For my personal career I guess that can only be helpful. So I hope that this time it will be longer lasting than it did in the 80s.
On most of the walls that I’ve seen from you, it seems that you typically paint on a rather large scale. What are some of the challenges that you have faced when translating your work on walls onto canvases?
As I use a slightly different technique working on canvases – I will go for brushes and marker pens in combination with spray paint – it is actually not that much of a challenge. And most of the canvases I do nowadays are kind of large scale as well. What I find more of a challenge is when I have to do a wall painting on a rather small wall or scale. That I find sometimes really difficult…My stuff needs distance and large scale, as all the bleeding and dripping of colors then comes to the best effect. What I also love about painting large scale murals is that you make use of the given space up to its possibilities. So I will always try to paint a wall top to bottom, no matter how high it is.
Last year Molotow paints dedicated their color Prussian Blue Dark to you – that seems like a real honor for an artist. What did that mean to you and how did that come about?
Besides the grey scale blue, and especially the Prussian Blue Dark is really my favorite color which I have used on a lot of canvases and walls. And with Molotow being my favorite paint it is really great to see my name on that particular can. Being friends of the Molotow family for quite a while this just was a really nice project to do.